The Orlando Magic have earned a reputation of relying on 3-point shooting to win games, but the last time out it was their inability to convert from inside the arc that led to another road loss.
No one’s having trouble scoring on the Indiana Pacers these days.
The Magic try to put a halt to their recent road woes Tuesday night at Conseco Fieldhouse, where the Pacers hope to bounce back from their most lopsided defeat in more than two decades.
Orlando (24-9) began the season 10-2 on the road but has since gone 1-4, and the most surprising of those defeats came Saturday to sub-.500 Chicago. The previous three road losses were against teams with winning records.
The Magic hit 14 of 37 3-pointers - they average an NBA-best 10.6 made per game - but shot just 19 of 55 (34.5 percent) from inside the arc Saturday in a 101-93 loss. They won 106-94 in Minnesota the previous night.
“To me, there’s only one factor tonight. They just played a lot harder then us,” coach Stan Van Gundy said after the loss at Chicago. “The back-to-back is … only an excuse. If you have any heart it doesn’t factor into it at all. … We are having a problem finishing in the paint.”
Dwight Howard(notes) was held to nine points, going 3 of 7 from the field, and Orlando struggling when he isn’t getting shots is nothing new. The Magic are 18-3 when Howard has at least eight field-goal attempts, and 6-6 when he doesn’t.
“We’ve got to be clearer about when to get it inside and get better balance on that inside-outside game,” Van Gundy said.
Howard hasn’t had any problems dominating Indiana. He’s averaged 24.0 points, 16.3 rebounds and 2.6 blocks in his past eight games against the Pacers (10-23).
Three of his 26 career 20-20 efforts have come in that stretch, including 21 points and 23 boards in a 106-98 win in Orlando on Dec. 14.
Howard shot 22 free throws, making 13, while Indiana’s Jeff Foster(notes) and Roy Hibbert(notes) battled foul trouble all night. Yet, it was the now-injured Troy Murphy(notes) who got tangled with Howard after a third-quarter foul, leading to double technicals. Howard’s was later rescinded even though Indiana coach Jim O’Brien believed the All-Star threw a punch.
“If I think I really wanted to punch somebody, I would,” Howard said.
That’s among the many concerns for O’Brien and the Pacers, who fell behind by as many as 48 points Sunday in a 132-89 loss at New York. It was their ninth loss in 10 games and their worst since a 119-73 drubbing against Detroit on April 2, 1987.
“It’s no fun to get behind 15, 20 points early on in the game,” O’Brien said. “We found ourselves digging holes early in games and generally we fight back and make it a ballgame, but we did not tonight.”
Besides Indiana’s contingent of injured big men, Danny Granger(notes) (foot) remains sidelined and T.J. Ford(notes) has fallen out of O’Brien’s rotation, leaving Luther Head(notes) and Earl Watson(notes) as the starting guards.